Tag Archives: financial education

Seven Debt Warning Signs

7 Debt Warning SignsCNNMoney reports “Americans have a debt problem.”

Yeah, well, we could have told you that.

Every third person in America  owes so much in payments, that their account is considered “in collections.”

The good news is the debt might only be $25. The bad news is the average amount owed is just over $5,000, with some debts as high as $125,000. The super duper bad news is delinquent debt can put your credit score in the toilet…for years…even if you’ve paid off the debt. And a wrecked credit score can hurt many things from employment opportunities to securing loans.

While it may seem that your debt crept up on you, there are warning signs…here are just seven of them:

  1. You hide bills from others.
  2. You use a credit card for most purchases, and only pay the minimal balance.
  3. You have little or no savings.
  4. You believe that checking account overdrafts are a normal part of everyone’s financial life.
  5. You don’t know what your living expenses are because you have never tracked your spending.
  6. The loss of a job in the household would cause an immediate financial crisis.
  7. You borrow money from payday loan offices, pawnshops, or title loan companies.

More debt warning signs included in the Money Possible workbook. (pdf, page 13)

Need help getting your debt under control? Consider a credit union, where some offer financial education programs and have financial counselors on staff, or contact your local non-profit credit counseling agency like Kansas Consumer Credit Counseling Service.

Quick Tip: Basic Money Management Skills

Destroying your debt doesn’t have to take hours. Watch our 15 second tips and then be on your merry way. These tips also air on KAKE-TV’s (ABC, Wichita, KS) regularly.

View all our quick tips.  Follow along on social media at #moneypossible.

Basic Money Management Skills

Get organized. Prioritize your debt. Track your spending habits. Create a monthly budget and stick to it. Make sure you ‘pay yourself.’

Turn $100 Into $1000

100 hundred dollar bills rolledDaily Finance has a nice little series about saving a Grand by cutting $100 per month. It’s called the $1000 Savings Challenge and you can see all the posts here.

Cutting $1000 is about as easy as losing those last five pounds. It’s going to take time, effort and sacrifice, something we Americans seem to lack. And there’s no one size fits all solution either.

According to the article,  “Go after your biggest categories to find the most spending, and concentrate on monthly bills so that you’ll be saving money each and every month. Go over every bill, methodically, one at a time, category by category. Cut out what you don’t use, don’t really need, and then look for less expensive alternatives to what’s less….all you have to do is start now, start small and don’t try to be perfect.”

We have been saying all along that to become financially fit you must DO SOMETHING. Start somewhere. Make a change. No one else is going to do it for you. It is up to YOU.

Here is the list of posts. Read them all, or just read the ones that will benefit you the most.

  • Part 10: When the Refi Fails, Rethink Repairs
  • Part 9: Nibbling Away at the Family Food Bills
  • Part 8: Life Insurance You Can Live With
  • Part 7: Spending Smarter on Entertainment
  • Part 6: Find Big Savings in Small Purchases
  • Part, 5: Cutting the Hidden Costs of Work
  • Part 4: Cutting the Cost of Kids
  • A $1,000 Challenge Bonus: How to Buy a Car and Save a Bundle
  • Part 3: Shrinking Your Car-Related Costs
  • Part 2: Turning Down Your Utility Bills
  • Part 1: Cleaning Your Financial ‘Junk Drawer’

Tips include looking through your bills with a fine tooth comb for “fees” or other things you didn’t sign up for. Research your credit card bill for those recurring items, and if you don’t use the service (gym membership?) get rid of it.

To save at work, consider talking to your employer and see if you can re-arrange your schedule to save on child care costs. Buy things like diapers in bulk at wholesale warehouses, but don’t get distracted by those “shiny non-essential items” like barbecue grills.

To put a stop to unnecessary spending, trim your bank ATM fees by switching to a credit union (with a network of surcharge free or low fee ATMs nationwide) or simply reduce the number of times you use the ATM by taking out more than you need. Of course, that only works if you can limit your spending, and don’t suffer from “Have Cash, Must Spend” syndrome.

There’s some advice about flexible spending accounts, reducing entertainment spending, buying a car and a bunch of other stuff, too. Some of it may not be for you. Some of it may be right up your alley.

Still don’t know where to start? Get help at a credit union or non-profit agency like Consumer Credit Counseling Service. And there’s always the Money Possible Workbook, which doesn’t take any time, effort or sacrifice. Just click the link. If that’s not an easy way to start, we don’t know what is.

20 Things Kids Should Know About Finances

dollars and coinsWe ran across two great posts about what you can teach your kids about money. Remember, they watch you and many times your habits become their habits, and you want them to become super star money managers, right?

Our friends at Go Girl Finances wrote 10 Things You Should Teach Your Kids About Money, and 10 More Things You Should Teach Your Kids About Money.

These aren’t the tired “have your kids save earnings in a piggy bank” or “create a budget with your child.”

These are better, and quite frankly, more relevant in today’s society.

Things like

  • Very Few Things in Life Are Free
  • Credit Cards Are Not Play Money
  • If It Sounds Too Good to Be True, It Probably Is
  • Money Cannot Buy Happiness (or Friends)
  • Advertising Is Not the Same as News
  • Uncle Sam Demands His Share

Head on over to the posts to read them in their entirety.

10 Things You Should Teach Your Kids About Money
10 More Things You Should Teach Your Kids About Money

 

The Good (Debt), The Bad (Debt) and The Ugly

Good debt vs. bad debtWe’ve been saying that “debt” is a four-letter word.

We’ve been preaching about paying down your debt. We’ve been scolding you for being IN debt. And we’ve been teaching our students they don’t WANT debt.

We lied. Only SOME debt is bad.

Like an episode from Ripley’s Believe It or Not, some debt actually helps your credit score.

But first, the 15 second rundown: What’s a credit score/credit report?

  • A credit report includes your credit score and states when and where you applied for credit, who you borrowed money from, and who you owe money to.
  • Creditors and employers use credit reports to evaluate your applications for credit, insurance and employment.
  • Good credit is essential for things like qualifying for a loan.
  • Bad credit can hinder your ability to borrow money.

(There’s more about credit reports on page 20 of the Money Possible workbook.)

Got it? On to our favorite four-letter word.

Bad debt.
Equifax said it best: Bad debt funds a lifestyle you can’t afford.

In other words, live within in your means. (Fredica has learned to do this…Go Fredica!)

Bad debt is using a high interest credit card and failing to pay it off IN FULL each month. Bad debt is owning store credit cards because you just can’t help yourself in Pottery Barn or Restoration Hardware. Bad debt is falling behind in your payments.

Good debt.
Good debt is investments that create value for you, like school loans and mortgages. Your home’s value will probably increase over time, and your education will likely land you a better job.

(Think your Pottery Barn apothecary cabinet “creates value” for you? It doesn’t, and you need to read “Needs vs. Wants.”)

Since most people can’t pay for hefty tuitions or buy a house with cash, they borrow money, and make monthly payments to pay off the loan. Good debt is debt you pay back ON TIME each month.

One thing to remember: Good debt comes after you have enough cushion in your savings.

The ugly: How does good debt and bad debt affect your credit report?
Your borrowing history, including the type of debt and pay back history, is listed in your credit report and impacts your credit score. In fact, 35 percent of your score is based on your payment history alone.

What does this mean?

  • Pay your bills on time and borrow wisely. Period.
  • Missing just one payment or paying late can turn your credit score ugly real fast.
  • Don’t add a bunch of new debt before paying down old debt. That’s making a mountain out of a molehill.
  • Be responsible and show creditors “I got this” by applying for credit only when necessary.

Long story short…not all debt can get you into trouble. Think about why you have debt and use your borrowing power wisely. And just like everything else…it takes time to improve your credit if it’s bad, but it’s doable. Budgeting, saving and living within your means are the keys to a great credit score.

The Freshman $30,000

We took an informal poll last month regarding your grade in financial literacy. The majority of US adults give themselves a C or lower in money smarts. Either smart people took our poll or you think you manage your money better than you do, because the majority of the respondents gave themselves a B. See the poll results.

Education SavingsIn light of this being the graduation season, and the fact that we ran across a survey that said students wished they learned more financial management in school, this post will be about how kids (or their parents) can become be money smart at school.

Forget the “Freshman 15.” We need to worry about the “Freshman $30,000.” The average student graduates with close to $30,000 in debt. That’s a lot of financial weight.

Students are screaming for education in how to manage their money. Some states require a class in financial education to graduate, but many do not. And just ONE class? We all know it takes more than that to get through to a teenager!

This is where parents need to step up and teach their kids. Or find somewhere that can…like a credit union or consumer credit counseling service.

Here’s why: First-year college students required to take a financial literacy course in high school are more financially responsible than those students who didn’t take the class, a recent study found. This means they were more likely to pay credit card bills on time and less likely to go over their credit limit. Both of those add up to less debt. But just 17 states require a course. And ongoing education is critical.

Our friends at A Smarter Choice have some good tips to get students started on the right foot. Here is a scaled down version of their blog post Get Started on the Right Financial Footing.

Stay frugal. Be mindful of what you’re spending. Check with your gym, and cellphone and cable providers, to make sure you’re getting the best rates. Pack lunches from home. Have friends over for dinner and movies instead of going out.

Negotiate your pay. Starting out with a higher salary will mean higher earnings over the course of your career.

Build an emergency fund. Prepare for the unexpected by setting up an emergency savings account and have your paycheck directly deposited into that account. You should have three to six months of living expenses saved. For real.

Start saving for retirement now. If your job offers a 401(k) or similar retirement savings accounts, put money into it! Even better is if your employer offers to match a percentage of your contributions. Your 50 year-old-self will think you were super smart for doing that.

Pay down student loan debt. Know what you owe and contact your lender immediately–before the due date–if you’re going to miss a payment. Pay extra if you can.

Use credit appropriately. A strong credit history will pay off when you want to buy a house or purchase other big-ticket items (the new iPhone 6 doesn’t count). Here’s the biggest piece of advice that you don’t really want to hear: Don’t charge more than you can afford to pay off monthly! And please, pay your bill on time. Spending too much and having late payments can get you in a heap of trouble…and fast.

College students are smarter, but have more on their plate than in years past. Make financial education a requirement for them, and maybe as an adult, they’ll be shedding that $30,000 before swimsuit season.